The new Archie comic by Mark Waid has been one of the bigger surprises in comics. Even though I’ve never read an Archie comic before Waid’s rebooted series this has been quite the treat. Waid has tapped into the elements that make the Archie world stand out and giving it a modern flair without losing itself. Every character has stood out thus far and now Waid is looking to really shake up the status quo by changing the lives of everyone in Riverdale with what fate holds for Betty Cooper. It would be hard to imagine the Archie series without Betty but it may be a good thing if Waid executes on the delivery correctly. Are we about to see a Riverdale without one of its most iconic characters? Let’s find out with Archie #22.
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Pete Woods
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Betty Cooper’s parents urge the doctors to save their daughter as she begins to fade.
Betty’s mother, Alice, flashes back to one of Betty’s first nights at home as a baby and how hard it was to get her to sleep. Though Alice and Hal have a hard time getting baby Betty to sleep when they do they express how much joy their daughter has brought to their lives.
Veronica then remembers a day at school when everyone was trying to get her to help them crowdfund their individual projects. Veronica turns everyone down and can’t believe how the entire school is filled with people looking for someone. Betty shows up and gives Veronica a soda as she looks like she needs one. Veronica smiles as Betty walks away.
Principal Weatherbee then remembers one day when Betty was serving detention alone and even kicks out the janitor as he is trying to fish a report for the new superintendent. As he is finishing the report Betty helps him out by reminding him the new superintendent’s name is Southwood and not Northwood. Weatherbee dismiss Betty and thanks her for not throwing him under the bus. Betty says it is because Weatherbee taught her better than that.
Archie then reminisces about the first time he and Betty met as kids in the playground. As they talk Archie expresses frustration of falling off a ledge he is trying to balance on. Betty offers to catch him the next time he falls but he ends up falling on the opposite side that is filled with mud.
Archie then remembers all the fun he had with Betty growing up, leading up to their romantic relationship and the crash that put Betty in a coma.
The doctors tell everyone in the hospital that Betty has a pulse and she begins to wake up. Archie runs into Betty’s room to see her when she wakes up. The doctors take Archie out of the room as he is not allowed in there.
Betty sees her parents and asks her mom why she can’t feel her legs. End of issue.
The Good: With the “Over the Edge” arc Mark Waid and Pete Wood challenged readers to think what the Archie series may look like without Betty Cooper as she hung on by a thread in a hospital bed. Seeing that along with the flashbacks may make some disappointed by Waid and Wood not going all the way with shaking up the Archie’s status quo. That disappointment does not take away from the fact that where we are left off with by the end of Archie #22 has opened plenty of doors for the series to go through.
All of the flashbacks we get from the various citizens of Riverdale that were close to Betty made the feeling of dread even bigger as the Archie #22 progressed. Opening things up with a flashback of Betty’s parents remembering her as a baby on one of her first nights at home was a strong way to elevate the issues tension. It got us behind what both Alice and Hal were feeling as they could do nothing but watch as the doctor’s tried to save their daughter’s life. That effectively brought both characters to the forefront and make them more important to this series moving forward.
Similarly, Archie’s flashback to the his first meeting and his life with Betty does put into question where he will go from here. It’s clear that from the moment of the crash that he is taking a personal responsibility for what happens. Archie rushing into Betty’s room showed that this experience opened his eyes to how important she is to him. How Waid goes with this eye opening experience for Archie could be a driving force for the drama around the core cast of this series.
Complimenting that was also Veronica’s flashback of the time Betty reached out to her without wanting something. Up until this point we haven’t seen Betty and Veronica’s relationship blossom into the best friends realm since they’ve mostly kept each other at arms length. Now that relationship could very well change and we may see Betty’s current predicament open the path to the classic “best friends forever” status for the two.
All of these flashbacks do point to Betty becoming an even more important character to the Archie series moving forward. After so much attention was paid to Archie and Veronica’s relationship we now can see how that is going to shift. Though an incredibly unfortunate event in Betty’s life it does open her up to have her own unique story within the series that does not need to involve Archie and the others at all times. Waid also has the chance to make Betty an extremely important character as she now has to overcome a disability and show how difficult that is, in turn making her an even stronger person.
Pete Woods did a great job with creating a sense of urgency in learning what Betty’s fate will be and growing a deeper connection with these characters through each flashback Archie #22 had. With each flashback Woods was able to emphasize how important Betty was with how each character reacted to their interactions with her. It kept a light tone to the flashbacks while never losing the fact that we were in the middle of reading one of the darker Archie stories.
The Bad: As I mentioned in my opening, some may be disappointed to find out that the tease of Betty dying by the end of “Over the Edge” arc. With how much this story was built up there is a general feeling of what would really have happened for the rest of the series if Waid and Archie Comics did in fact go in that route. It would have been a true shake up to the entire franchise with how important Betty is. Though were we are left does create plenty of story opportunities for the series but it is something that will leave some wondering “what if Betty did die?”
It was also odd that Waid decided to go with Principal Weatherbee as a character we see reminisce about Betty. He hasn’t been a big factor in this series up to this point, and has really been just a background character so far. It would have been much more effective for the story if we saw a flashback of Betty’s friendship with Jughead or Dilton. Especially with how the last few issues established that Dilton and Betty had developing relationship that was turning romantic Archie #22 could’ve expanded on that by highlight a special memory from Dilton.
Overall: Archie #22 effectively shakes up the status quo for the series as we learned what Betty Cooper’s fate is. Mark Waid now has plenty of avenues to explore as Betty’s disability can be dealt with in many ways by her and everyone in Riverdale. Where the series goes from here will provide plenty of intrigue for fans to come back for more.